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Home / News and Insights / Insights / What happens to child maintenance if either parent moves abroad?

Moving to another country is a huge decision that, while incredibly exciting, also comes with a great deal of administration. If you have a child and either pay or receive child maintenance, then it is important to ensure that you are aware of what impact your move might have on these arrangements.

How can I enforce child maintenance payments if the paying parent moves abroad?

The Child Maintenance Service (CMS) can usually only order a parent to pay child maintenance if both parents and the child live in the UK. However, there are a few exceptions if the paying parent is working abroad:

  • for the UK government (for example, as a civil servant or a diplomat);
  • for the Armed Forces;
  • for a company that is based in the UK; or
  • on secondment for certain organisations, such as a local authority

If none of these exceptions apply and you cannot reach an agreement with the other parent about how much child maintenance they should be paying to you after the move abroad, then you will need to apply to the family court in England and Wales for a court order, which sets out what child maintenance payments you should be receiving.

In the vast majority of cases, this should be the end of matters, and the paying parent should simply pay the amount set out in that court order. However, if the paying parent refuses to pay the maintenance that has been ordered, then the next step will be to apply to enforce the court order in the country where they live. The family court in England and Wales has entered a reciprocal agreement (called the Reciprocal Enforcement of Maintenance Order, or ‘REMO’) with over 100 countries, which means that a court order made in England and Wales will be recognised and can be enforced in any of those countries. These countries are listed here.

Do I still have to pay child maintenance if my child and the receiving parent move abroad?

If your child and the receiving parent move abroad, you will no longer have to pay any child maintenance that you were previously ordered to pay by the CMS. This is because the CMS cannot make decisions about child maintenance when the child or receiving parent live abroad.

However, the receiving parent can instead apply for a child maintenance order in the country in which they are now living. This will depend on the laws of that country. If you do not pay the child maintenance that has been ordered abroad and the country that made the child maintenance order has entered into a ‘REMO’ agreement with England and Wales, then the receiving parent will be able to apply to court in England and Wales to enforce the foreign court order. The English and Welsh courts can then take steps to enforce payment of child maintenance, for example, by deducting any arrears of child maintenance from payslips at source.

For further advice about international family law and child maintenance, please contact our specialist family team.

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